Nissan dealership puts family first, 60 years and counting
With a respect-for-all approach, Younker Nissan carries on as Nissan’s longest-running dealership in the U.S.
Younker Nissan, seen here in the late 1980s, has been selling Datsun and Nissan vehicles since 1963.
A week removed from the Fourth of July, Younker Nissan has plenty of reason to continue celebrating.
On July 8th, this historic Nissan dealership based in Renton, Washington, hit an impressive milestone: 60 years of service. With deep family roots, it is Nissan's longest-running dealership in the U.S.
The full story of Younker Nissan, however, dates back nearly 90 years to the summer of 1934, when 19-year-old Sam Younker began a job pumping gas at an Auburn, Washington car dealership.
A natural at engaging customers, Sam advanced from the gas pump to the sales department within a week. He quickly rose through the dealership ranks, utilizing his dynamic personality to build relationships and grow his presence in the local business community.
"I'm very serious when I say he was one in a million," Gene Church, Sam's friend and mentee, was quoted as saying in a 1991 Seattle Times article.
By the late 1940s, Sam was ready to lead his own business. In 1949, he founded Younker Motors in Renton, with the support of family members, friends, and others in the local community.
Following nearly 15 years of success as head of Younker Motors, Sam decided to focus his efforts on the brand he loved most – Datsun – and transitioned his business to become Younker Datsun in 1963. The dealership became Younker Nissan when the company rebranded from Datsun to Nissan in the early 1980s.
Fueled by a deep passion for cars and a love for all people, Sam fostered a welcoming culture at Younker Nissan where no one person was more important than the other.
As he neared the end of his career, Sam wanted to ensure that his successor would continue to follow his family-first, respect-for-all approach. He didn't have to look far. Gene Church, who had worked with and learned from Sam for several years, acquired Younker Nissan in 1990.
"Gene and Sam were very close," said Jimmy Church, who is Gene's son and the current owner of Younker Nissan. "It was close to a father-son relationship. There was so much mutual respect and love for each other. Sam took Gene under his wings and helped mold him into the man he became."
Gene's acquisition of the business not only ensured that the dealership would continue to thrive, but more importantly, that Sam's passions and values would live on well past his sudden death in 1991.
"Sam and Gene both had the same approach – to take care of employees and customers by treating everyone like family," Jimmy added. "Their view was to not just sell an individual car, but to create a customer for life."
When Gene passed away in 2003, Jimmy acquired the business, continuing the passing-of-the-torch from founder, to mentee, to mentee's son.
Younker Nissan now operates out of a 30,000 square-foot facility built on land that Gene purchased in the 1990s. Its opening in 2008 completed Gene's vision – and in a way, an extension of Sam's – and allowed Jimmy to continue forward with a familiar approach.
Jimmy and the Younker Nissan team remain heavily involved with a long list of local and charitable organizations, including Toys for Tots, Young Life, and Renton Salvation Army, among others.
The dealership employs over 50 people and many Church family members, including Jimmy's son, Gene Church, who is the late Gene's grandson.
And while the business has grown exponentially since it was founded 60 years ago, Younker Nissan's family atmosphere and core values remain.
"Working at Younker Nissan, there is always a sense of pride," Jimmy said. "There is always an overall feeling of being part of the family."
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